Theater Review: ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ is entertaining for men as well as women

From Burlington Free Press

By Brent Hallenbeck

The premise of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” is that five women sit around telling stories about their clothes. That conceit is heightened in the Girls Nite Out version of the Nora and Delia Ephron play that opened Thursday with a display of designer gowns in the foyer outside the Main Street Landing Black Box Theatre.

Scene titles carry names such as “The Bathrobe,” “The Bra,” “The Shirt” and “The Closet.” But it’s important to focus on the first two words in the title of the play: love and loss. The clothing is merely the vehicle for a night of funny, hard-hitting and engaging storytelling that should be as entertaining for men – well, almost as entertaining, anyway – as it is for women.

Sure, most men haven’t considered concepts such as toe cleavage when trying on shoes. But it’s not hard to identify with a production as full of humor as this one. Nora Ephron, who died last year of pneumonia exacerbated by leukemia, is best known for writing films such as “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle” that ostensibly catered to the chick-flick crowd but struck as much of a chord with the guys as they did with the gals.

“My life is over just from wearing it in the house,” Natalie Miller, showing the comic timing honed from her stand-up work, says about a dreadful purchase her character’s mother made for her. “You look like a waitress in a Hungarian restaurant,” actress Sebastian Ryder says in a segment introduced with the chill-inducing line “things your mother says to you.” “Kenny didn’t care what I weighed, because he was gay,” Nan Murat says of a man her character married. “I began to fantasize about tragically, or magically, losing him,” Stephanie Gallas says of a man her character married and almost instantly regretted.

Most of the script is on the light side, but “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” offsets the laughs with poignant drama. A bathrobe helps tell a story of death. A bra helps tell a story about cancer. Boots help tell a story about rape. In all of those stories, clothes are not just adornment. They’re salvation.

“It sounds silly,” Miller’s character says of a favorite shirt, “but I am generally happier when I have clothes like this in my life.” Clothes don’t just make the man, it turns out; they also make the woman, or at least the women in “Love, Loss, and What I Wore.”

The Girls Nite Out Production is keyed by a character named Gingy, played with winsome cleverness by Ruth Wallman, who throughout the play tells of the clothes she wore at key moments in her life from girlhood to grandmother-hood. Pleasant if mildly distracting drawings accompany her stories, providing something of a “clothes through the years” history lesson.

Not every tale works. The universality of the stories comes crashing down when one of Miller’s characters talks about her gang sweater in Chicago. Murat deftly delivers a rant against purses, but the segment takes too long. The women tell their tales mostly in monologue form, but there’s still plenty of room for banter and interjection, which is paced crisply by the actresses and director Kathryn Blume.

The performers all wear black clothes, which of course match the black chairs they sit on and the black music stands their scripts rest upon. “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” is nothing if not color-coordinated.